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From The Sideline

Random thoughts and comments from a new HeliFreak
user just getting started with the heli hobby.
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Asking for help

Posted 02-28-2008 at 11:11 PM by int2str

Many Internet users come to a forum to ask for help or assistance. This is not much different than meeting in person. However, when you meet someone in person, communication is more instant and thus less prone to confusion. Here are some simple tips that I hope will help people asking for help more efficiently on Internet forums such as HeliFreak. Hey, there might even be a life lesson in here somewhere...

In order to get the best help possible - and fast, it is important that the people that might be able to help you understand what your actual problem is. The better your problem is laid out, the easier it is to address.

Here are some simple tips on how to ask for help on a forum, or anywhere really:

Pick a good headline or intro

Put the topic of concern in your thread title, email subject or mention it in the beginning of your question. So instead of "Help nothing works!!!!!", use something like "What is the right spark plug for my car?" as a thread title etc.

When your audience scans forums, newsgroups or wherever you posted your question, they are alerted by keywords that match their area of expertise. If somebody just changed their spark plug, reading "spark plug" as a topic title will get their attention, as they may have the information you need.

Topic title selection is a great first step to getting people to read your question.

Ask a question

Once you get people to read your post, it is important that your post contains one or more actual questions. You might have a question in your mind when you type up your post, but more often then not, it never makes it into the text of your post.

This may sound obvious, but a question ends with a question mark '?'. If you are not asking any direct questions, any person helping you out will have to make up their own mind on which part of your posting they want to address.

Ask a coherent question. You will get much higher quality responses if your post contains a concise question. Provide all the information that might help a person answer your post (Heli model, equipment used, etc.) and focus on one problem per thread/email etc., don't lump them up. If you have to lump up problems, make easy to address bullet points out of them that people answering you can reference.

Presentation

Try to put some punctuation in your posts where appropriate (commas, periods) and refrain from using excessive punctuation at the same time (ex. !!!!!!!!!!!!). Also, whitespace and paragraphs are also important. All these things help make your posts more readable and more easily addressed.

Break up logical areas into different paragraphs or even different posts. Also use headlines and sub-headlines to further structure your problem description, if you're presenting a complex issue.

Patience

Be patient! More often than not, the people you're asking for support are not paid to help you. Do not expect to be treated with any priority. People will answer you as they see fit; when they want and however they want. They are also free not to answer at all.

But if you asked your questions right - given some time - people will find your posts, get interested and be more than happy to share their knowledge with you.

Acknowledge any responses - don't burn bridges

If you get responses to your inquiries, acknowledge those responses. If you asked about this hard to find problem with gyro setup on your helicopter, once somebody posted a solution for you, report back if it worked (or even if it didn't). If you never acknowledge any answers to your posts, those who answered will quickly feel they wasted their valuable time on you and won't do it again down the road.

Hopefully, the tips above will help you post well formed questions on your Internet forum of choice, and get great answers as a result.

Feel free to add your comments and other tips for successful communication.

PS: I created this blog entry to repeat what I recently posted in a thread as well. Pardon the duplication, but I thought it would make a good Blog entry for others to enjoy or reference.
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